Joeri Messelink (29) is starting on his thesis this month. Nothing unusual about that, except that this is his third attempt. The Master’s student has had setbacks – lymph node cancer and depression – and has numerous other interests in addition to environmental technology, such as politics, philosophy and religion.
Joeri takes a critical view of the world around him. Take religion. It creates false expectations, says the Master’s student. ‘I don’t want to hold a God responsible for what happens here.’ Personally, he is interested in the mystical strands of Islam such as Sufism. ‘It’s not so dogmatic, it’s a more poetic approach to belief, focusing on philosophical ideas rather than rules.’
Joeri also has a critical take on modern Western society. ‘We have so much freedom that people have forgotten what freedom means. We have created a society where people are tolerated rather than accepted.’ Joeri thinks it is crazy that working indoors has a higher status these days whereas it does not necessarily make people happy and ‘humans are designed to move around’.
Joeri likes long-distance running, often going off road for distances of more than 30 kilometres. ‘If you run for long enough, you stop caring about what the rest of the world is doing. Time becomes a blur and you get into your zone.’ Such spells are particularly important when you are depressed, as Joeri knows from experience. He suffered from depression a couple of years ago. ‘I got lymphoma when I was 12. Just after I had been cured, there were several suicides at my school. I had just got my life back and I couldn’t understand this. It was only when I was hit by depression that I could see how you might give up all hope.’
Joeri talks candidly about how the disease changed him. Physically — the cancer has made him infertile — and mentally — ‘you just look at life differently’. He says that you can’t understand who he is without this information. ‘One thing I know for sure: I’ve had more good fortune in my life than bad fortune.’
Joeri wants to complete his degree. ‘I’m not worried by the fact that other people my age may already have two children. That’s not my goal in life because I can’t reproduce, so I will have to find something else that makes me happy.’ Travelling the world, for example. But first there’s that Master’s thesis ...